Why do we drop a ball on New Year's Eve?Breaking News
"Anthropologists ponder the significance of all sorts of human behavior, and this is certainly one obviously quirky tradition worthy of analysis," says Raybeck. "This is even more the case, now that the practice is being emulated throughout the country where, at New Year's, different communities drop an assortment of oversized objects ranging from a hog (Fayetteville, Ark.), to oranges (both Orlando, Fla. and Orange County. Calif.), to a live opossum in a cage (Brasstown, N.C.), to a carp (Prairie du Chien, Wis.). These various dropped objects both celebrate their respective locales and say goodbye to the expiring year."
"Humans like divisions and patterns. Where they are absent, we tend to supply them. It is significant that the Times Square ball comes down rather than going up. The descending ball signifies the end of the old year at least as much as the start of a new one. It brings that year to a highly visible conclusion and prepares the way for the New Year and, as many of us hope, a fresh start."
"New Year's Day serves as a marker, a beginning. It is the threshold for all the potential and threats of the future, the perfect time to make promises to ourselves, and perhaps God, to become something other than what we are. Thus New Year's is also a sociologically and psychologically auspicious occasion to see transformation, and many of us do wish to alter our circumstances."
"Our resolutions are an expression of our faith in our own perfectibility - however poorly justified. Americans place a fundamental social and cultural value on their ability to create a unique self. The making of resolutions is part of the quest for our individuality, as well as a testimony to its importance to us."
"New Year's resolutions about denial - eat less, spend less, stop ---ing (fill in the blank) - illustrate the dynamic conflict between the capitalist social context of our daily lives and what we think it means to be a good human being. Most of us will fail in our attempts at improvement, but the hope is always refreshing and the self-deception harmless. Besides, we can always look forward to the next New Year's Eve when we will really get serious about our plans for improvement... Ahem."
Hamilton College anthropology professor Douglas Raybeck is the author of "Looking Down the Road: A Systems Approach to Future Studies," a vision of the future of American culture.
comments powered by Disqus
- Donald Trump Is Wrong on Mosul Attack, Military Experts Say
- Emmett Till memorial sign is riddled with bullet holes and has been repeatedly vandalized
- Posthumous pardons law may see Oscar Wilde exonerated
- Has an Election Ever Been Rigged in U.S. History?
- A short history of white people rigging elections
- Steven Runciman — historian, tease and professional enigma — is the subject of a biography
- Historian Eric Foner: Trump is Logical Conclusion of What the GOP Has Been Doing for Decades
- Ken Burns developing 'The Gene' based on Mukherjee's bestseller
- Does the 'Father' of the 1948 Ethnic Cleansing Narrative Really Want to Recant His Words?
- Max Boot wants to know “what the hell happened to my Republican Party?"